ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $42.9 million to provide reliable irrigation for farmlands and non-cultivated lands in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) of Pakistan.
The project will be completed in March 2020 and Fata secretariat will be the executing agency, said a statement issued by the ADB on Thursday.
ADB’s concessional Asian Development Fund is funding the project with counterpart funds from the government of Pakistan amounting $4.9 million.
“Irrigated farmlands in Fata will boost productivity and enable farmers to earn higher incomes by producing higher-value crops, including vegetables,” Donneth Walton, an ADB Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist was quoted as saying in the statement.
“This will reduce poverty and boost household food security,” Walton said.
Fata is located along Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan and is spread over 27,000 square kilometers. The project area consists of three of seven semi-autonomous Fata agencies namely Bajaur, Khyber, and Mohmand with a population of 2.6 million whose vast majority depends on agriculture, livestock, and natural resources for their livelihood.
Pakistan has been battling militants in this semi-autonomous tribal belt since 2004, after its army entered the region to search for Al Qaeda fighters who had fled across the border following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
According to the statement today, poor water resource management has become a major obstacle to increasing productivity and improving the living conditions of the Fata inhabitants.
Due to low rainfall, many farmers in the project area rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, which produces food staples such as wheat and maize. Some rely for irrigation mainly on groundwater taken from wells, with little utilisation of surface water.
As per the project, irrigated agriculture in Fata will be expanded through better use of the region’s surface water resources. Instead of building costly water infrastructure, the project will use simple and small irrigation schemes that can be maintained by the local communities, including small gravity dams.
The project will also improve farm water management through activities such as terracing and land levelling, and watershed management through afforestation of the degraded watersheds.